Veteran actor Roger Moore found himself in a cloud of controversy over recent comments that James Bond should be played by an “English-English” actor, as opposed to Cuba Gooding Jr. – or, it seemed, Idris Elba.
Moore, 87, was originally quoted in a Friday interview with the French magazine Paris Match, which includes a sidebar featuring Moore’s comments on the other Bond men, including Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. Moore starred in the long-running franchise from 1973-1985, appearing as Bond in seven films.
Under the header “Idris Elba, the next Bond?”, Moore is quoted as saying, “A few years ago, I said that Cuba Gooding Jr. would make an excellent Bond, but it was a joke!
“Although James has been played by a Scot, a Welshman, an Irishman, I think he should be English-English. It is nevertheless an interesting idea, but unrealistic,” he said.
A Twitter account apparently connected to Moore soon rebutted that interview, saying the comments were “lost in translation” and mistakenly taken as racist.
“An interview I gave to Paris Match implies I said something racist about Idris Elba. That is simply untrue. #Lost in translation,” the account, which is unverified, tweeted Saturday.
In a subsequent exchange with another Twitter user, the Roger Moore account said, “When a journalist asks if ‘Bond should be English’ and you agree, then quotes you saying it about Idris Elba it’s out of context.”
Benjamin Locoge, who heads culture coverage at Paris Match, defended the piece to AFP, including Moore’s quoted use of the term “English-English.”
“Roger Moore implies that it would be difficult to have a black James Bond in the sense that one cannot imagine General de Gaulle being played by a black actor and James Brown by a white [actor],” Locoge said.
But Moore said he was speaking about nationality, not race – that’s why he highlighted Gooding Jr. (who is American) in his answer to what he claims was the actual question in the interview: Should Bond be English?
Locoge added, “One should not interpret [Moore’s] words as racist and the Twittersphere has without doubt got carried away a bit too hastily.”
Backlash indeed brewed online. “Christian Bale can play a REAL Pharoahe, but @idriselba can’t play a FICTIONAL James Bond?” retired champion boxer Lennox Lewis Tweeted.
“Love @sirrogermoore & he’s not a racist. He’s wrong though – @idriselba would make a brilliant James Bond,” Piers Morgan Tweeted.
Elba, 42, hasn’t publicly addressed the situation. But he has long been fan-cast as the next James Bond; and in a Reddit AMA said he would “absolutely” take the role if it was offered to him.